How to Love a Song

There’s a post I want to write about cellos and my revision (as I’ve mentioned); there’s a post I want to write with many, many cello recommendations; but this post is refusing to be either of those posts and insisting on being a post about one song. Thanks to Yo-Yo Ma’s Vevo, I can share it with you here.

Below is the track “Here and Heaven,” from The Goat Rodeo Sessions, which is a… part bluegrass, part classical?… collaboration by Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile. Singer/songwriter Aoife O’Donovan joins those four fellows on this track, too, cowriting and adding her gorgeous vocals.

Really, I don’t have a lot to say about it, because the song itself is the point. But I will briefly explain how I listen to this song, in the hopes that this will express somehow the reasons why I love it.

The song contains eight instruments. Two gambas, played by Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer – and I don’t really know my gambas, so for the purpose of this post, I’m just going to call them the little gamba (played by Thile) and the big gamba (played by Meyer) ^_^ (these are the instruments that look like big fat violas, or little cellos, but are being plucked like guitars; they’re the first two instruments played) (I’m trying to aggravate copyeditors with this sentence, is it working?); Stuart Duncan’s banjo; Yo-Yo Ma’s cello; the voices of Chris Thile and Aoife O’Donovan; Edgar Meyer’s bass; and Stuart Duncan’s fiddle. I might listen to this song eight times in a row, focusing on each of the instruments in turn. Then I need to listen again because I’m in love with the way the banjo and the cello, and later, the fiddle and the cello, are working together; then again to focus on the beautiful voices working together; then again to focus on how gorgeous the cello is as it works with the voices. I could just die of those low cello tones. Of course I also listen to it while appreciating everything together – and don’t think that just because I haven’t mentioned it I’m not appreciating the quietest contributions, both of which come from Edgar Meyer, first on that big gamba, then on his bass. That’s another delightful thing to listen for, and you can watch it happen in the video – at just the right moment, Meyer puts the big gamba down and moves to the deeper bass, and the song becomes richer in just the way it should. Moments later, in the middle of a climax of voices, Duncan’s banjo fades away, and the next thing you see, there he is plucking his fiddle, then playing it with his bow… Chris Thile becomes a Little Gamba Warrior (remember, the gamba, not Chris Thile, is little)… the soup of sounds grows deeper, more sustained, and more intense. The joy grows. It works because they’re all virtuosos at what they do, which includes not only playing their individual instruments, but working together – and also includes songwriting. The melodies of this song are lovely, simple, often repeated, in a manner that allows them to rise to the most gorgeous, pure moments of musical happiness. The lyrics have a rhythm (of sound and content) that make you want to learn them, and sing along.

There are many ways to love a song; this one is mine. :o)